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Types of public art in the Macarthur Region

Sometimes hidden in plain sight

Public art in all its forms is present across the Macarthur Region.

The Camden, Campbelltown and Wollondilly Local Government Areas on Sydney’s southwest metropolitan fringe cover the Macarthur region.

Temporary artworks on display in the form of crocheted Flanders Poppies used to commemorate Anzac Day in Camden made by Frances Warner in 2018 (F Warner 2023)

Some of the Macarthur region’s public art is hidden in plain sight, and we pass it every day without a thought.

This post examines the types of public art found across the region and follows the typology outlined by the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art in Melbourne.

What is public art?

The Australian Centre for Contemporary Art defines public are as

A public artwork is an artwork in any medium, planned and executed outside a gallery context and intended specifically for exhibition within public space.

Public spaces are generally open and accessible to all. They can be indoors – such as foyers, atriums, airports or shopping centres – or outdoors – such as forecourts, parks, squares, freeways or plazas.

ACCA 2023

Types of public art

Permanent

This statue of Governor Hunter in the Governors Green Reserve at Mount Annan is an example of a permanent art installation. The statue was commissioned by land developer AV Jennings and Lithgow sculptor Antony Symons was engaged to complete the artwork in 1995. (I Willis)

Permanent public artworks are meant to stay in their current location for a long time, e.g., statues and sculptures. These works are meant to be durable, made from bronze, marble, granite, steel, and basalt, and can last centuries.

Temporary

The Mother’s Day artwork installation for Instagram posts at Narellan Town Centre forecourt on Camden Valley Way. These temporary art installations are very popular with people and are regularly posted on social media. (I Willis, 2023)

Temporary public artworks have a predetermined life, sometimes hours to perhaps days or years, e.g., installations, projections and performances created for public spaces. These works can be ephemeral, and materials used can include paper, chalk, video, sound and performance.

Stand-Alone

These tortoises are am example of 3-D structures that are independently standing without support. They are found at Narellan Town Centre forecourt on Camden Valley Way and are popular with children. (I Willis, 2023)

Stand-alone works can be defined as 3-D structures and independent of other structures.

Site-specific installation

This site-specific artworks is by artist Michael Purdy called ‘Gimme Shelter’ and was part of the 2018 WSU Sculpture Award and Exhibition at the Campbelltown Campus. The work is a radiata pine, wire, sandstone and found objects. This is a powerful work set by its location, isolated at the lake’s edge. The sculpture ‘explores the individual’s loss of identity once they become part of the “refugee problem”. Purdy is a landscape architect who uses Sydney sandstone in his work around the city. (I Willis, 2018)

A site-specific installation describes an artwork where the context, the surroundings or the setting is just as important as the work. Each element informs the other, and both elements are essential to the artwork.

Integrated

The seating is an integrated public artwork that provides an organic quality to its setting as an integrated part of the Queen Street Mall in Campbelltown. The artwork is part of the Invigorate Campbelltown program and is described in detail on the public history webpage of the Campbelltown Arts Centre. (I Willis, 2023)

An integrated public artwork is incorporated into another structure, e.g., a streetscape, building or landscape design. Examples range from street paving to sculptural seating and artist-design glass (windows) where the artwork might be a metaphor.

Applied

The mural has three panels and is described as a ‘triptych’ constructed from glazed ceramic tiles (150mm square). The tiles were attached to the wall of sandstone blocks supported by two side columns. The monument is 9.6 metres wide and 3 metres high, and around 500mm deep. There is a paved area in front of the mural 3×12 metres, associated landscaping works and a wishing well. Camden Pioneer Mural with the ceramic artwork completed by Byram Mansell in 1962 and commissioned by Camden Rotary Club. (I Willis, 2020)

An applied public artwork is placed directly onto the surface of another structure. The work is 2-D and includes murals, chalk drawings, legal ‘street art’, and illegal graffiti.

Performance-based

A performance-based public artwork at Illuminate Wollondilly Festival of Art and Light at Picton by a dance troupe. (WSC 2019)

Performance-based public art can include dance, theatre, music, and other live actions in public spaces. These are temporary artworks as they involve performers and involve choreography, direction, or musical scores.

Large & small scale

‘Spinning the Fire Sutra 1’ by Savanhdary Vongpoothorn in Anzac Lane was commissioned by Campbelltown City Council in 2022. This is an example of a large-scale public artwork that takes up the entire block on the building’s rear wall. The artwork completely dominates the laneway and the viewer and is 70 metres long and 15 metres high. ‘Spinning the Fire Sutra I’ is inspired by the Ādittapariyāya Sutta (Pali, “Fire Sermon Discourse”), a discourse from the Pali Canon popularly known as the Fire Sermon. The artwork is part of the Invigorate Campbelltown program and is described in detail on the public history webpage of the Campbelltown Arts Centre. (I Willis, 2023)

Large-scale public artwork can be described as monumental and expansive in a public space in open parks, tall buildings, and large trees. The experience of the viewer can be overwhelming, alienating or disconcerting.

This small-scale public artwork of a parrot is located at the front of the Alan Baker Art Gallery Macaria in John Street Camden. The artwork is attached to a hitching post that has survived the years. (I Willis, 2023)

Small-scale public art is intimate between the viewer and the artwork and can be personal and quiet.

Static

‘Three Mobs’ is a static art installation by artist Jason Wing in 2022 commissioned by Campbelltown City Council. The mural is located at the corner of Queen Street and Dumaresqu Street, adjacent to the Queen Street Mall. The artwork features interwoven rainbow serpents, celebrating the intersection of Campbelltown’s peoples and their many thriving cultures. The artwork is part of the Invigorate Campbelltown program and is described in detail on the public history webpage of the Campbelltown Arts Centre. (CAC/Document Photography)

Static artworks at still or motionless, so it does not change murals or statues.

Kinetic

Flying flags and banners in Argyle Street Camden are an example of kinetic artworks that move in the breeze. (I Willis, 2023)

Kinetic artworks move in some way, e.g., sculptures that move in the breeze.

Sound-based

A soundscape provided by a performance artwork at Campbelltown’s Live and Local on 17 May 2018 by the Honeysippers (HS 2018)

Sound can be an integrated part of a public artwork as part of the performance or on its own. Live ‘n’ Local festival offers a range of sounds and performances that delight the listener.

Digital

A digital artwork projected on the Wollondilly Shire Council office building at the Illuminate Wollondilly Festival of Art and Light in the Picton town centre. (I Willis, 2017)

Digital artworks include CGI images projected on buildings or videos onto a screen. The 2023 festival is described this way:

Immerse yourself in an enchanting world of art, performance, light and colour as we see the much anticipated return of the Illuminate Wollondilly Festival of Art & Light this September 2023.

https://www.illuminatewollondilly.com.au/

References

ACCA 2023, ‘What is Public Art?’   Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne. Online at https://acca.melbourne/education/resources/public-art/what-is-public-art/  

https://doi.org/10.17613/c0sa-cm46